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Big government's transformation into "big brother" takes another step forward

While warrantless surveillance is nothing new, modern technology is allowing a zealous U.S. government to utilize it in a more pervasive and Orwellian manner than ever before.  A former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation agent recently acknowledged that the agency stores -- mostly without warrant -- all cellular and land-line phone calls in the U.S.  Likely archived as text, such a high-tech Big Brother scheme is only possible via advances like exabyte storage and advanced dictation software.

I. Ring, Ring It's the Police State (Now on VoIP) 

Now the Obama administration is preparing to expand the wiretap program yet further, moving to retrofit FBI rules to allow for warranted and warrantless wiretaps of voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) telephony conversations, according to a report in The New York Times. The plan was reportedly masterminded by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, a top official in Obama's inner circle whose great-grandfather was a railroad tycoon.  Mr. Mueller reportedly complained that the agency's efforts to spy on Americans without warrant were "going dark" amid increasing VoIP use.

The original plan was to force every internet service provider (ISP) to develop its own capability to filter, duplicate, and archive a copy of VoIP traffic for government use.  Now the proposal has been changed to fine ISPs who don't comply with requests for data.

VoIP
The government may soon be able to spy on your voice-over IP calls.
[Image Source: Jon Ovington]

Writes the NYT report:

The difference, officials say, means that start-ups with a small number of users would have fewer worries about wiretapping issues unless the companies became popular enough to come to the Justice Department’s attention.

Of course that also means the U.S. Department of Justice becomes judge, jury, and executioner able to fine companies for "noncompliance" under a rather ambiguously defined set of rules.

The new plan is an extension of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (18 USC § 2522), which requires landline and cellular carriers to develop similar wiretap capabilities.  While Congress has not yet passed a VoIP update to that law, that matters little as in recent years the executive branch has gained the power to effectively legislate via sweeping mandates.

Andrew Weissmann, the general counsel of the FBI, promised citizens that the new monitoring would mostly be used with warrant to fight "spies", "terrorists", and "suspected criminals".  He comments, "This doesn’t create any new legal surveillance authority.  This always requires a court order. None of the ‘going dark’ solutions would do anything except update the law given means of modern communications."

FBI masked agent
The FBI is pushing for a powerful new tool to spy on Americans. [Image Source: Alamy]

Under the current rules, agency officials say, ISPs can simply respond to court orders that they tried to wiretap and failed; now they will face stiff fines for such insubordinace.  Within the date of the requested surveillance the company has 30 days to comply with the police state's request.  If it does not, it faces fines of around $25,000 USD per day, per unfulfilled request.

II. Critics Pushed Aside

A former DOJ lawyer, Michael Sussman, says the proposal closely mirrors one from George Orwell's home nation, Britain.  The British law, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000, institutes similar strict fines to guarantee prompt obedience.

Critics, though, say the plan could help hackers gain access to private information given the government's poor security track record, in addition to the obvious abuse of power concerns.  Comments Gregory T. Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology, "I think the F.B.I.’s proposal would render Internet communications less secure and more vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves.  IIt would also mean that innovators who want to avoid new and expensive mandates will take their innovations abroad and develop them there, where there aren’t the same mandates."

The revised plan, though, does drop the most alarming provision of the original plan, which would effectively outlaw secure encryption, forcing all encryption to be carried out an ISP level with the ISP caching your key for later use.  With that provision dropped, encrypted conversations should still be safe from government spying, assuming sufficiently strong encrpytion methodology.

The Obama administration and the FBI first tried to sell Congress on the plan in 2010 and 2011.  But critics on both sides of the aisle, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) bucked the plan.  While most members of Congress support the current bipartisan majority view (that all human communications must be captured), many offered uncharacteristic resistance to the plan, as their corporate campaign donors (large tech firms) expressed wariness at the proposal whose costs would likely come out of their pockets.

President Obama
President Obama was frustrated by critics to his spying plan. [Image Source: AP]
 
But ultimately the Obama administration will likely look to silence the critics and implement the plan without Congressional authority.

Source: The New York Times



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Dammit Obama!
By wingless on 5/8/2013 10:06:01 AM , Rating: 4
You can't trust Democrats or Republicans. I'm not going to give up freedoms or liberty or privacy for any amount of safety!

Benjamin Franklin said this,"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We can't sit back and not be vocal about this. To not speak up is un-American.




RE: Dammit Obama!
By TheEinstein on 5/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: Dammit Obama!
By ritualm on 5/8/2013 11:54:28 AM , Rating: 2
Except the problem with the Tea Party as it currently stands is its originally stated goals have already been taken over and corrupted by the Republicans. Establishment or no, you are still screwed.


RE: Dammit Obama!
By TheEinstein on 5/8/2013 1:37:24 PM , Rating: 1
Excuse me.... I am not co-opted.

I will be heard soon enough, the political shot heard around the world.

Silly downraters as well. Haters will be haterz tho.

Less Federal Government, less taxes, less hypocricy, less waste, less fraud, less abuse, less payoff for those businesses who lobby, less success for anywho would hold our futures hostage!

Example: Indie music is now Federally subsidized.... wtf is up with that?!?


RE: Dammit Obama!
By ritualm on 5/8/2013 10:33:42 PM , Rating: 2
Excuse you? The founder of the Tea Party admitted he wasn't thrilled about Republicans hijacking their agendas.

For every finger you point at someone, you have four fingers pointing back at you. You're the one who needs to pay attention.


RE: Dammit Obama!
By Ammohunt on 5/8/2013 12:00:04 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with the tea party is that they borrowed their name and flag from a time past that doesn't resonate with the majority of American's today. They are also not a unified group e.g. Tea Party patriots, Tea Party. If they want common sense, rugged individual conservatives like me to join and be active come up with your own flag and your own original act of rebellion like the original Tea Party Bostonians did and purge the Anarchist Libertarians from the group.


RE: Dammit Obama!
By TheEinstein on 5/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: Dammit Obama!
By Ammohunt on 5/8/2013 12:36:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Look... I have some serious mojo coming, I am going to make the blow hard Dick Armey and the egoist Karl Rove look weak.


I am so tired of the "liberal lite" neo-cons, I wish you luck whilst remaining skeptical and pessimistic.


RE: Dammit Obama!
By Cerin218 on 5/10/2013 6:33:54 PM , Rating: 2
No you won't. Because you don't understand the enemy. You think you are going to bargain with, compromise, or convince the collectivists that their ideology is flawed and self defeating.

You think that logic, reason, and education will bring the collectivists into the light. It won't. You don't understand collectivism.

You don't get that collectivists literally blank out any information that is contrary to their ideology. YOU CANNOT SWAY THEM. You must outnumber them. But the collectivists have been working to change this country since it's inception. They have plans that take DECADES to come to pass. They will patiently wait for those plans.

Why do you think the collectivists have been paying the lowest common denominator to breed? It's actually quite brilliant, the take resources from the productive to fund an army of the unproductive. All the while the productive only breed what they can support. If you have more bunnies reproducing than foxes to eat them, soon the bunnies outnumber the foxes. And what do you do when the bunnies figure out that by sheer numbers they can destroy the foxes?

The leadership can care less because their kept in elitism. The best of everything for they are rich. What happens to the little people means very little to them other than sustaining their luxury. The rich leadership even TOLD the poor the rich were their problem and the only thing that cam out of that was a mob calling themselves Occupy Wall Street. And what happened there? A mob with no goals, ideas, or even a direction for movement because they didn't understand they'd been played by their masters.

The government ALLOWS and ENCOURAGES debt so that you are a slave that must work to fulfill your debt. Makes you easier to control.

Education has become social engineering because it's difficult to rule an educated populace. So they give you the illusion of school even as they saddle you with more debt to control you.

I thought the last administration was out to steal our rights but the current administration make Bush look like a wanker.

This country is failing, and people like you, while well intentioned don't understand the enemy. Collectivists ARE the zombie apocalypse.

For ALL of our sakes I hope you are right, but fear that it is FAR too late.


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